Sunday, June 11, 2017

Two anniversaries, two flags: Gay Pride in St. Augustine, Florida

(Photo credit: St. Augustine Record)

On June 7, 2005:  United States District Court Chief Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. orders Rainbow flags to fly on our historic Bridge of Lions in honor of Gay Pride, a huge First Amendment victory against the City of St. Augustine, Florida.  City officials changed the rules in 2004 to require flags would only fly for events open to everyone rooted in an historic event or place.  I was proud to help encourage the plaintiffs, Rev. Ruth Jensen and her wife Elizabeth Forbell, and their lawyer, helping end three years of bigoted bumptiousness by corrupt City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS, who now works for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, f/k/a "HOAR."  From June 8-13, 2005, 42 Rainbow flags flew on our Bridge of Lions and seven flew on the Bayfront.  On June 11, 2005, we celebrated Gay Pride Day on Cuna Street, with 1000 people, several flying improptu from Los Angeles and New York City (including Jason Relph, son of Wendy Relph, owner of Crucial Coffee and adjoining restaurant -- it was Jason's idea in 2003 to fly the Rainbow flags on our Bridge.   People "came out" and spoke in favor of the flags in 2003 and 2004 (several were fired by homophobic employers) -- yet Commissioners did not even vote on it, so cowed were they by HARRISS.  In 2005, we demanded that the Commissioners vote. They voted against us 3-2.  Then Judge Adams reversed their unconstitutional vote within fourteen days.

How did we do it? With research at the St. Augustine Historical Society Library, establishing beyond peradventure the 1566 murder of a Gay French interpreter of the Guale Indian language, on orders of St. Augustine founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and other elements of St. Augustine's 11,000 years of GLBT history.   (Menendez's brother in law wrote it all down so the facts were well-night irrefragable).  Mirabile dictu: It only took 14 days from unconstiutional City Commission decision to landmark federal court decision. Judge Adams overturned the May 23, 2005 vote of City Commissioners to deny only one group the right to fly flags (then-Commissioners Susan Burk and Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. dissenting).  Judge Adams asked insurance defense lawyer Susan Ederlyi about the Broward Yacht Company and Flagler College being allowed to fly their flags, with no claim to history at all, while the City indulged HARRISS's hatred.  The decision was issued while the plaintiffs and supporters were still at lunch in a local sandwich shop in Jacksonville with lawyer Karen Doering from the National Lesbian Rights Center.

Our GLBT community's stunning, quick, epic, precedent-setting federal court victory was the first of some 66 of our local public interest victories (and counting), 2005-2017, here in Our Town. Incredibly, The St. Augustine Record, an alleged journalistic institution formerly owned or controlled by KKK members/sympathizer A.H. "HOPPY" TEBEUALT, editorially opposed our First Amendment victory.   This same excuse for a newspaper supports developers and covers up for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance on the Michelle O'Connell and Andrea Sheldon homicides.

On June 13, 2005, Commissioners voted 3-1 against allowing future flag-flying, (then-Commissioner Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. dissenting and Commissioner Burk absent, as was often the case).  The seven flagpoles along our Bayfront were quietly removed, sua sponte, by hick hack HARRISS, never to be seen again.

We await St. Augustine City Commissioners, staff and the Florida Department of Transportation restoring flag-flying to our bridge, including the American flag, as many of us have requested over the years.  The sight of flags flying on our Bridge is breathtaking, and must be restored.  Now.

On June 12, 2016:  49 GLBT people were murdered by ISIS in an Orlando at the Pulse nightclub.  The next day, Greater St. Augustine Republican Club President MARTIN MILLER goes on WFOY radio, owned by failed mayoral candidate KRIS PHLLIPS, to state that the 49 murder victims "got what they deserved," quoting the Bible.  No apology.  I filed an FCC complaint.  Waiting.,,,

Meanwhile, President Trump has refused to declare June as Gay Pride month, reversing annual orders issued under Presidents Clinton and Obama.  Bigotry is alive and well in the White House.  Bigotry must be extirpated, as the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Gay Rights Coalition v. Georgetown University, 426 A.2d 1 (D.C. App. 1987), a case requiring my alma mater to respect equality.

I represented the plaintiff in Rinde v. Woodward & Lothrop in 1989-90, and wrote the first article on Gay marriage in an American Bar Association publication in 1991: more here.

Our GLBT alumni/ae group persuaded GU not to seek certiorari, over the strenuous objections of the late Edward Bennett Williams, major donor and major pain, ex-lawyer for James Riddle Hoffa and other corrupters.  Thankfully, Georgetown did not get a U.S. Supreme Court decision with its name on it, like other malefactors forever rendered infamous in anti-discrimination law, like the City of Boca Raton and Bob Jones University)

Tomorrow (June 12, 2017) is the first anniversary of the Pulse shootings. I've written our local government offices to make sure they comply with the Governor's orders to fly flags at half-staff.

If you see any flag at full-staff, please call the Governor's office (and me).  Zero tolerance for bigotry in Our Town  and our country.

Here's pertinent correspondence (updates later):

On Jun 11, 2017, at 10:51 AM, Ed Slavin <> wrote:

Good morning, Dr. Xue and Ms. Hall:
Thank you for your prompt response. 
I look forward to hearing from all of our other local government officials later today about flying the flags at half-staff tomorrow, June 12th.
Thank you for all that you do for our community. 
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: Rui-de Xue <>
To: Charolette Hall <>
Cc: Ed Slavin <>
Sent: Sat, Jun 10, 2017 10:04 pm
Subject: Fwd: Request No. 2017-261: Instructions to fly flags at half staff on June 12, 2017 in honor of Pulse shooting victims

Please see the following message and follow the Governor's order to do the flag. 

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Ed Slavin <>
Date: June 10, 2017 at 7:10:33 PM EDT
Subject: Request No. 2017-261:  Instructions to fly flags at half staff on June 12, 2017 in honor of Pulse shooting victims

Dear General Calhoun, President Prickett, Superintendent Forson, and Messrs. Regan, Wanchick, Royle, Conrad, Wuellner, Goldman, Xue, Shoar, et al.

1. Please send me a copy of your written instructions to Florida National Guard, FSDB, School Board, Airport, Mosquito Control, City and County and contractor staff to fly all flags in all locations at half staff on Monday, June 12, 2017.  4 U.S.C. 7.

2. Please confirm that every single flag at FNG, FSDB, schools, city halls, courthouse, libraries, government offices and maintenance facilities of any kind is being flown at half staff in honor of the Pulse shooting victims, as has been ordered pursuant to 4 U.S.C. 7.  by Florida Governor Richard Scott.  Federal law states "When the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, or the Mayor of the District of Columbia, issues a proclamation under the preceding sentence that the National flag be flown at half-staff in that State, territory, or possession or in the District of Columbia because of the death of a member of the Armed Forces, the National flag flown at any Federal installation or facility in the area covered by that proclamation shall be flown at half-staff consistent with that proclamation. "  

3. Please verify that every single one of our American flags are at half staff in all locations and will remain at half staff for 24 hours, effective 12:01 AM on June 12, 2017.  After the Pulse shootings, Greater St. Augustine Republican Club President Martin Miller stated on Kris Phillips' WFOY radio that the Pulse victims "got what they deserved."  And former St. Johns County Commission Chairman Ben Rich, Sr. candidly stated to Folio Weekly in 2008 that St. Johns County was "one of the last bastions of the KKK." 

4. As Reagan said to Gorbachev, "Trust but verify."  Please expect that any disobedience or deviations from Governor Scott's mandatory written order to fly flags at half staff pursuant to 4 U.S.C. 7 will be photographed, reported, broadcast and might even be litigated, and would be bad publicity for your respective agencies.   See, e.g, Jensen v. City of St. Augustine (M.D. Fla 2005)(the Bridge of Lions Rainbow flags case).   Please govern yourselves accordingly.  Herein faith not.

Thank you.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin


Anonymous said...

While I think it is awesome that the Rainbow flags got to fly and that the federal court issued a correct decision I have a question for you Ed. I think you were a lawyer ...yes?

Ok ...would you agree that often KKK events are protected under free speach...I think they are ...thats why the idiots have the right to march with proper permits issued?

So now that the Rainbow Flag group won can you explain how it would be legal to deny the KKK from flying their flag if they requested to do so?? Would that look great or awesome to have the bridge lined with KKK flags during lets make this up...bigot week? No..I don't think it would look good.

So based on above it seems the City had no choice but to deny flying any and all flags. Why do you assume their decision was "bad" or a sign or prejudice??

Seems they had no other choice but to ban all flags or risk having really offensive flags flown but idiot hate groups?

Just asking...

Ed Slavin said...

City criteria in effect 2004-2005 required that to fly flags on BOL, you had to have an event open to the public, to everyone, that was rooted in historic event or persons. Gay Pride group met criteria. KKK rallies by definition are not open to everyone, as Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S. and three other African-American men learned when they were beaten and about to be burned to death.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans group told Commissioners in 2005 they did not seek to fly Confederate flags on the Bridge and Bayfront.

KKK as a terrorist group is unlikely to fill out an application and hold a public event.

So, good question, but it's not an issue. What is an issue was Commissioners responding to KKK threats, including a threat to boycott their businesses. Only Sue Burk and Joe Boles got it right. The other three Commissioners responded to some 32 pages of vulgar hatred on the St. Augustine Record's "Talk of the Town" website (since taken down).